Last night, Transgender Law Center director Masen Davis sent this bittersweet statement on the state's pivotal marriage equality vote:
Regardless of their gender, all couples should have the right to marry and protect their families. We are hopeful that this wave of understanding will spread, and that soon all Americans will all be able to live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination. Thank you, Washington legislature and Governor Gregoire, for your impressive display of compassion.
Scores of politicians and organizations issued rejoiceful statements, but this is the only one I want to post: in part because it came with a cheerful note saying, "Thanks for helping us get trans voices out there."
I also wanted to post this because Davis hits on something I'm afraid of: that after the election gay people are going to think their work is done. Assuming voters pass same-sex marriage on the ballot—knock on wood with a rabbit's foot—many may see it as the finish line for LGBT rights in Washington State. It's time to be fully coopted into mainstream society! Don't get me wrong, I'm a faggot and would love to find myself a nice man and settle down in a house in the suburbs with a white picket fencerent an excruciatingly small apartment in the East Village.
But this isn't the finish line.
Not for gays who have a national DOMA law to repeal—and definitely not for transgender men and women (and queergender people) who both want to repeal DOMA and overcome a pervasive culture of intense hostility, intimidation, and discrimination.
Even in Seattle where we've passed laws banning most forms of transgender discrimination, trans people are still kicked out of public bathrooms. Even in King County where voters approved gender-identity protections, trans people can wind up before doctors who give them backward medical advice. Throughout Washington State, where malicious harassment is a felony hate crime and anti-discrimination in housing and employment have been the law since 2006, many places are downright menacing.
A study completed in 2011 called Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination found that 78 percent of transgender people reported harassment, 35 percent reported physical assault, and 12 percent reported sexual violence. On the job, the numbers are horrible: Ninety percent reported harassment or discrimination in the work place. It goes on: Nineteen percent reported being refused medical care, and half of all respondents said they had to teach their medical providers about trangender care. At retail stores, 53 percent reported being harassed or disrespected.
So as Davis at the Transgender Law Center implied: Yesterday's gay marriage vote wasn't the finish line, and we won't make it there by November.
I'm not sure what, exactly, I'm asking people to do here. I'm writing this to myself as much as everyone else. Clearly, the fight that remains for transgender men and women is partly legal—like passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress—but it's also a struggle for cultural acceptance. The same is true for gays and lesbians, even after marriage is secured. But gays and lesbians already have it better. (My computer's spell checker puts a red squiggly line under the word "transgender" but not gay or lesbian, and lots of gay people still treat transgender people like freaks.) The fact is, there are a lot more gay folks than transgender folks, and we are an amplification system, but it's all the same struggle. If we win this November, we can't pull up the ladder. We're not done.